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Maybe you hate your job and you’ve thought of quitting. Time Magazine reports that a record number of Americans are quitting their jobs, sometimes at the rate of millions per month. And I can relate; I’ve quit more than 30 jobs myself.
But I’ve also kept some jobs, at least for a while, including a casino position I had for many years. Oh, I hated those jobs too. I just found ways to make them work for me.
So this is your guide to how to make a job you hate worth keeping. Will you learn to love your job? Maybe. Maybe not. But you can at least put off quitting for months or years, and have a little more job satisfaction while you collect those paychecks.
To make your job better you need to first identify what makes you want to quit. In a Paychex poll the most common reason employees gave for quitting was low pay. Here are some other reasons you might feel like leaving your job:
- You find that your hours are too long
- Your employer doesn’t care about you
- Your work isn’t interesting
- You’re not intellectually challenged
- Your work isn’t creative enough
- You don’t get enough recognition
- Your job benefits are lousy
- You don’t have a good work-life balance
- Your commute is too long
- You’re passed over for promotions
- You have problems with co-workers
- You can’t pursue your passions
- Your job doesn’t have a retirement plan
- You want to live somewhere else
You might relate to a few of these reasons to quit, or even have a few more that aren’t on the list. In any case, to make your job worth keeping, resolve the problems one by one to the extent possible. Here’s how…
1. Get a Raise
If the size of your paycheck is your primary problem at work, making more money might be all it takes to keep you happily employed. Steadily-increasing pay was one reason I worked for many years in a casino position — a job I never liked.
The most obvious way to make more money is to ask for a raise. But first prepare a plan of attack. If you’re not sure how to go about it, the Wall Street Journal has a nice guide to getting a raise.
There are other ways to make more money from your job. For example, you can work days and hours that are paid at a higher rate, like overtime shifts and holidays.
I sold rides to co-workers at one job. With another employer I was allowed to do some freelance writing while at work, which made my time spent there more valuable.
2. Work Less
The average number of hours worked by employees varies around the world, with Germans working much less than Americans, and Mexicans working the most.
But regardless of location you should have some say in how much you work. Even high pay wouldn’t have kept me at that casino if they hadn’t allowed me to work three days per week instead of full-time.
Of course, a request for a reduction in hours is more likely to succeed if you’re paid by the hour. Your employer will at least save money in that case. If you’re paid a fixed salary see if you can switch to a position that requires fewer hours.
As a final solution, if you’re otherwise really going to quit, tell your boss the hours you’re willing to work if he doesn’t want the resignation letter that’s in your hand (really; it will be more effective if you actually prepare the letter and have it right there).
3. Work Different Days or Hours
If you have a problem with the particular days or hours you work, ask for a change. I once convinced a boss to let me work only on Sunday.
A friend asked for and got a schedule of four 10-hour days weekly instead of the usual five 8-hour days. That gave her one extra day off for kayaking, bicycling, and other outdoor pursuits.
4. Stop Caring About Your Employer
If your employer is unfair and doesn’t care, it may be time for you to stop caring. Do the job you’re paid to do, but without any extra effort, and ignore unjust rules to the extent possible.
For example, one of my employers expected employees to give up their free time to wait at home on unpaid “standby.” I told the boss I wouldn’t answer the phone. I didn’t care if I lost the job. The result? He took me off the standby schedule. I was the only employee exempted because I was the only one who refused to participate.
Be warned that this is a good way to get fired. Maybe I wasn’t fired because the company was short-handed, or because I was a hard worker. But in any case, why care too much about a job if you’re treated poorly?
If you have an incompetent boss, Harvard Business Review has some suggestions for dealing with that problem. They suggest you focus on what you can do better, have empathy for the boss, and possibly seek a transfer.
5. Redesign Your Job
Work that’s not interesting, creative, or intellectually stimulating makes a job boring. What can you do about it? Try “job crafting,” a process of redesigning your job to fit your skills and interests.
If you need advice, read a book on job crafting. To get your boss onboard, email him a link to this Inc.com post: “Why You Should Let Your Employees Design Their Own Jobs.”
Here’s my own example… Decades ago I was an assistant manager of a fast food restaurant, which involved spending a lot of time working in the kitchen with the other employees. I preferred to do more creative work, and to work alone more often, so I redesigned the position.
After I started doing the scheduling at home, I was paying myself three hours for the one-hour task. I created a scheduling system that cut labor costs while improving service.
I instituted a direct-mail plan to get sports teams to visit the restaurant by the busload, and another plan that saved thousands of dollars on sauce packets while improving customer satisfaction.
My boss was okay with all of this because I was saving and making the company money. That’s probably the key to convincing your boss to let you redesign your job. Don’t focus on how you’ll be happier; explain how the company will benefit.
6. Market Yourself
Not getting the recognition you deserve at work? Are you passed over for promotions? Maybe your supervisors don’t know everything you do or how effective your efforts are. Tell them!
Some people are more natural self-promoters, but anyone can learn. You can even find advice online on self-promotion for introverts.
If you want to move up in the company, read up on things that get you promoted according to employers. And, of course, avoid the mistakes employees make when trying for a promotion, which include too much flattery of your boss, asking at the wrong time, and thinking merit alone decides who’s promoted.
7. Buy Your Own Benefits
Some employers don’t offer much more than a paycheck. But don’t quit over the lack of health insurance or an employer-match 401k plan until you do two things.
First, ask for the benefits. Find similar employers who offer whatever it is that you want, and share those examples with your boss. It may lead to nothing, but why quit before you ask?
Second, do the math. Don’t assume benefits are necessarily worth that much. For example, instead of a lower-paying job with health insurance you might be better off staying where you are and buying your own policy.
Another example: An extra week of paid vacation amounts to less than 2% of your annual pay, so if you’re paid well but don’t have enough vacation time, see if you can just take unpaid time off.
8. Work From Home
Want a better work/life balance? Try working from home.
A recent workplace flexibility study found that employers are often unaware that employees want work from home, and unaware of the numerous benefits of letting them do so. Employees who work from home are happier, and employer benefits include higher productivity, lower turnover, and a great recruiting advantage.
In other words, if you would like to work some shifts from home you need to let your boss know, and point him to the evidence showing potential benefits to the company.
9. Shorten Your Commute
Long commute? One obvious solution is to move closer to the job. If that’s not practical, and if your employer has more than one workplace, try for a transfer to a closer location.
Also, if you can put in your 40 hours in four 10-hour shifts instead of five 8-hour ones, you’ll have one less day of commuting (and an extra day off).
10. Learn to Get Along
Nasty or difficult coworkers can make you want to quit a job. But complaining can make you look like the one who can’t get along with others. So don’t start by going to the boss, even if that’s what you may have to do later.
Instead, read up on dealing with difficult coworkers and try a few of the suggestions. These include examining how you may be making the problem worse, talking to the problem-employee privately, and simply getting transferred to another department.
11. Pursue Your Passions
If there is a job out there that’s more aligned with your passions and interests, quit what you’re doing and go for it! But most of the time you won’t get paid to do what you like.
Fortunately even a boring job can help you pursue your passions if you use it the right way. For example, I made one job more tolerable by regularly requesting (and receiving) unpaid time off to travel and climb mountains.
Your job can provide the money you need to develop your interests. You can try different hours to better fit your schedule of personal activities. You can seek out co-workers with common passions.
Don’t quit a job over a lack of passion until you at least see how you can make it better serve your needs.
12. Do Your Own Investing
A lack of a retirement plan might be one reasons you dislike your current employer, but do the math. If you find another job that offers a 401k plan with a employer contribution, will it pay less? If so, you might be better off just investing your money yourself in an IRA.
13. Get a Transfer
Maybe you need a change of scenery. But why quit over that if you can transfer? A friend who works for a major corporation has asked for and received transfers from Michigan to Florida and from there to Vermont in recent years.
It usually won’t hurt to ask. And if you absolutely can’t tolerate staying where you are, prepare to quit and let your boss know that’s your plan if you can’t get a transfer. That’s not blackmail, just honesty.
14. Use Your Job in Other Ways
You may be able to make your job more rewarding by using it in new ways. These could include ways to make more money from it, but there are other possibilities as well.
For example, I used one job to help me pay off my first mortgage, and that made it much more tolerable. I used another job to learn how to renovate and flip houses for a profit. I found chess opponents in one workplace, and backpacking partners in another.
Get creative when you think about how to make your job more interesting. For example, if you like to write fiction you might use co-workers as the basis for characters in a novel.
If you have a job outdoors you might carry an edible wild plant book at work to learn about survival foods. To make money playing poker you could recruit players for your games at work.
15. Prepare to Quit
Perhaps, like me, you won’t be happy with any job. That’s okay. Just use jobs to pay the bills and make them as interesting as they can be.
It’s no fun to feel trapped in an awful job, but you can change that feeling and make any job more tolerable by doing one more thing: Prepare to quit. In my experience it’s much easier to stay when you know you can leave. So get ready…
How do you make your job more tolerable or even enjoyable? Tell us below.